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Source: South Africa
4 January 2005

Media statement on the South African observer mission to the Palestinian Presidential elections on 9 January 2005

Pretoria - The South African Government is sending a high profile election observer delegation to Palestine, ahead of the Palestinian Presidential Election, to be held on 9 January 2005.

The delegation will be led by Mr Dumisani Sithole, Chairperson of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Foreign Affairs. Dr Brigalia Bam, Chairperson of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) will also from part of the delegation and assist with technical advice and expertise. The team will depart South Africa on 5 January 2005 and return on 12 January 2005.

South Africa's participation in observing the forthcoming elections in Palestine will not be the first such endeavour. The South African Government sent a delegation of observers, under the banner of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), to the elections that were held in the Palestinian territories in 1996.

South Africa's participation in observing these elections is pivotal to the Presidential Peace Initiative and the Government's ongoing efforts to assist the conflicting parties in finding a long lasting resolution to the current political crisis. It is hoped that South Africa's participation in the election monitoring would contribute to ensuring the freeness and fairness of elections in Palestine, which would subsequently revitalise the Peace Process.

South Africa supports the realisation of a two-state solution in the Middle East, with an independent state of Palestine coexisting side-by-side with Israel within secure borders.

South Africa joins the international community in welcoming Israel's commitment that it would ease its military presence in the West Bank and Gaza. However, the South African Government remains concerned over the serious escalation of violence in the Occupied Territories, particularly the recent Israeli incursions into Gaza. The Government also calls on all Palestinian militants to stop the firing of rockets and mortars. Such acts of violence are likely to imperil the electoral process and jeopardise the prospects for peace.

The South African Government maintains its firm belief that free and fair elections in Palestine will contribute positively towards the resumption of negotiations between the Palestinian and the Israelis and consequently create conditions necessary for the implementation of the Road Map.

List of delegation:

* Mr Dumisane Sithole: Chairperson of Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Foreign Affairs (Head of Delegation)
* Dr Brigalia Bam: Chairperson of IEC
* Mr Patrick Sibande: Member of Parliament
* Ms Pinky Mokoto: Member of Parliament
* Ms Thoko Mpumlwana: Deputy Chairperson IEC
* Mr Iqbal Jhazbhay: Academic
* Rev Vukile Nehana: Religious leader
* Rev Edwin Makue: SACC
* Mr Isaac Mogotsi: DFA delegate
* Ms Zeenat Adam: DFA delegate
* Ms Nthabiseng Nkosi: DFA delegate

Enquires: Ronnie Mamoepa
Cell: 082 990 4853

Issued by: Department of Foreign Affairs
4 January 2005

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